| |

Cookie Icing Recipes

Hand-decorated cookies are great for holidays and make excellent gifts and favors for special occasions. There are several main cookie icing recipes you can use to embellish your treats. Let’s dive in and look at different decorating icing mediums you can use to decorate cookies.

Round cookies decorated with fondant, royal icing, glaze, and buttercream displayed on marbled slab.

updated from 2010


You can decorate cookies with various icings, including royal icing, glaze icing, buttercream, fondant, and ganache. Individual icings can be used or combined together depending on the desired style, texture, finish, and level of intricacy. For example, you can cover a cookie with a thin layer of fondant, and decorate the top with royal icing details.


Undeniably, royal icing is the most popular icing to decorate cookies. It’s also what I use to make decorated cookies. It’s made from powdered sugar, egg whites or meringue powder, water, and flavorings. This egg white-based icing is often thinned down with water to flood consistency and used to ice the surface of cookies, creating a smooth icing layer. Because pure royal icing dries hard, it’s a perfect medium for piped flowers and transfers. It’s also used for making various textures and intricate details on cookies and cakes.

Royal Icing is easy to flavor with natural flavors and/or extracts. Avoid using oil-based flavorings, which break the icing and cause drying issues or blotching. Learn more about royal icing.

Round cookies decorated with royal icing.


This vegan royal icing recipe can be used just like egg-white/meringue-based icing. To make it vegan, aquafaba (chickpea brine) is used instead of egg whites. It is a great alternative to egg-white-based icing. Try my vegan royal icing for your next project. It’s super popular with cookie decorators.

Vegan royal icing in a bowl.


Among all the cookie icing recipes there are also some that are created by combining two icing recipes. This hybrid royal icing called Franken Frosting was created by Sweet Hope Cookies. It’s made by combining Royal Icing and Glaze Icing.


If you are not a royal icing fan or allergic to egg whites, you can use glaze icing to decorate cookies. It’s made from powdered sugar, corn syrup, water, or milk and flavorings. I tried this medium when I first started my cookie decorating journey. Occasionally, I use it for small projects like this Lemon Curd Cheesecake Tart.

  • Glaze icing is quite popular among cookie decorators. It doesn’t contain eggs and is easy to prepare; some even say it’s less fussy than royal icing. Though it can be slightly temperamental when left to dry on cookies in cold temperatures. It dries with a lovely sheen finish and a softer bite than royal icing and tastes delicious. You can use glaze to decorate cookies, or if you are in a rush, drizzle glaze over cookies and add festive sprinkles for creative flare.
  • Because glaze icing is a bit more elastic than royal icing, it can be challenging to do super fine details using this icing. What’s great is that you can decorate the base with glaze icing, let it set, and then add fine details using royal icing or fondant decorations. Glaze icing is not suitable for making piped flowers or transfers.
  • When making cookies with this icing, I had an issue with white spots and mapping appearing on some cookies. It can be prevented by adding a few drops of white food coloring to the icing when mixing it.
  • Let the icing dry completely before packaging or stacking the cookies, for the best results, store cookies layered between parchment sheets.
Small bowl with icing, undecorated round cookies, three piping bag filled with icing and lot of decorated cookies on a marble slab.


The ease of preparation of American Buttercream makes this popular cookie icing recipe an excellent option for decorated cookies. Buttercream frosting is sweet, smooth, and soft. It crusts with a soft bite but never dries hard. I used it to decorate homemade bakery-style soft Lofthouse Cookies.

Buttercream frosted round cookies on a marble slab.


I created this hybrid recipe by combining American Buttercream and Melted Butter Frosting. It’s easy to color, softer than royal icing, tastes excellent, and is fun to work with. Use hybrid Crusting Buttercream to decorate cookies with a spatula or piping tips. When allowed to air-dry, it hardens well enough for cookies to be stacked or packed individually.

I used crusting buttercream to create stenciled designs and piped ranunculus flowers.

Round cookies decorated with frosting and piped ranunculus flowers.

These simple crusting buttercream Leprechaun Cookies take a few minutes to decorate.

Round cookies decorated with buttercream frosting.

Use a small palette knife to make flower cookies.

Round cookies decorated with buttercream frosting using a palette knife.


If you are not a fan of piping, you can add a special touch to your cookies using fondant and create uniquely decorated cookies. You can use this soft, play-dough-like icing on cakes and cookies alike. What’s excellent about fondant is that you can create smooth designs or use impression tools and create different textures. Additionally, you can use royal icing on top fondant layer to add fine details.

If your hands are not made for fondant rolling, replace them with a pasta machine. It works great for fondant, too. Cut rolled-out fondant with cookie cutters into shapes or mold it into 3D shapes – for example, simple fondant ribbon roses via Make Fabulous Cakes.

You can use readily available fondant, but there are better-tasting options. I make marshmallow fondant and have used it on cakes and cookies.

Paint palette with a paintbrush sitting on the top, surrounded by decorated cookies.


Lastly, there is ganache, made from chocolate and cream; surely, it makes for delicious icing. And yes, you can use it to decorate cookies, even though not in the same fashion as royal icing. Decadent chocolate ganache can beautify cookies with a simple drizzle, coating, or stenciled design. Below is the recipe you can use to make the white chocolate ganache.

  • Easy Ganache Recipe for Decorating
  • 60grams white chocolate
  • 30grams whipping cream
  • Add both chocolate and whipping cream to a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it on high in 10-second intervals, stirring well after each time. Stir until smooth.
  • Chill for 10 minutes, until it thickens and can be spread onto a cookies. Or use runnier ganache to drizzle over cookies.


Round cookies decorated with a variety of icings.

This post was originally published on March 25th, 2010. On March 11th, 2023 I updated this post with written text, detailed instruction and new images.

Similar Posts


  1. Hi Hanielas, I am a fan of all you and Marlyn make. I love your royal icing. I make it with the fresh lemon juice and it’s wonderful. What if you want another flavor like cinnamon, do you leave the lemon out and replace with water?

  2. Hi, could you tell me how can I replace Meringue Powder for the icing? I can't found here in my place. Thanks for your wonderful recipes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *